Nepal Earthquake Relief

These are photos we just received from Plenty volunteer, John Vavruska, who is in Nepal doing earthquake relief. He and his Nepalese partners have been purchasing rice and driving it out to the village of Chupar, just north of Kathmandu. The last photo is of temporary shelters made from bamboo, recovered roofing panels, and tarps. John said there were 11 people sleeping in one of these. Note the landslides in the background.

Unloading bags of rice.
Unloading bags of rice.
Bags of rice ready for distribution.
Bags of rice ready for distribution.
Giving out rice to a villager.
Giving out rice to a villager.
Temporary shelter.
Temporary shelter.

Help for a village in Nepal

John Vavruska, a friend of Plenty Board member, Robert Reifel, is an engineer and photographer in Santa Fe, New Mexico and a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal.  John, who speaks Nepali, is a close friend of Uttam and Budu Rai, originally from Nepal but now U.S. citizens living in Santa Fe.  Budu’s parents live in the village of Chupar in the Nuwakot district of Nepal about 25 miles north of Kathmandu.  All houses, approximately 200 of them in the village, were destroyed by the powerful 7.8 earthquake of April 25.

John and Uttam are headed to Nepal on Friday May 8 to assist with food and shelter relief for the village.  Budu’s brothers Maila Tamang and Dawa Tamang, along with their friends with access to four-wheel drive vehicles, are beginning to transport badly needed relief supplies– tarps that will serve as shelters through the monsoon season, and food– rice, cooking oil, and salt to the village.  The logistics of securing these supplies have been challenging but these great people on the ground along with donations from the good people here at home, are making this relief effort possible.  Plenty International is supporting John’s, Uttam’s, and the villagers’ efforts and is calling for donations, which can be made on our website ( or, preferably, by checks made out to Plenty International designated with “Chupar, Nepal Relief” on the note line.  Checks should be mailed to John Vavruska, 872 Don Cubero Avenue, Santa Fe, NM  87505.  These photos show the village of Chupar and some of John’s friends before and after the earthquake.

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Kids To The Country Winter Program Dec. 19, 2014

Kids To The Country    

425 Farm Road #3       Summertown   TN   38483

ph and fx: 931-964-4391

 INVITATION Kids To The Country         Winter Program 2014

 You are cordially invited to join us Friday, December 19, 2014 for the Kids To The Country Holiday Gift-making Workshop and pre-Kwanzaa celebration at the Spruce Street Baptist Church, 405 Spruce Street in Nashville. This location is just off Charlotte at 20th and we have Darlene Fowler-Stephen, former director of the Sister Program, to thank for this opportunity. The event will run from 12:00 noon until 3:45 pm and lunch will be provided. Please come and bring lots of kids!

Come make gifts with the children and celebrate the spirit of the season with all the kids and the dedicated program staff.

 The Kids To The Country Winter Program consists of a Holiday Gift-making Workshop and pre-Kwanzaa Celebration to be held Friday, December 19, 2014. We are grateful to have the opportunity to reconnect with the children and enable them to become givers themselves at holiday time by making their own presents. It is great fun to see the kids leave with these big bags of hand-made gifts for their loved-ones. The second part of the program is a pre-Kwanzaa celebration that awakens the children to their personal talents and good principles to live by all year around. We anticipate a big thank you to WHOLE FOODS in Nashville for providing the fruit for the ceremony and for the kids to take home. Sizwe Herring will provide the content for the celebration from the work “Sustainable Kwanzaa” by the late Gwynelle Dismukes. We know this is a very valuable experience for all those who participate. KTC is grateful to Whole Foods for providing the Kwanzaa fruit! See you all soon!

RSVP to Mary Ellen Bowen

931-209-8119 (c), Sizwe Herring 615-300-2941 (c) or


Plenty Bulletin Fall/Winter 2014

November 2014

Dear Friends of Plenty,

  You’ve probably heard by now that Plenty’s founder and mentor, Stephen Gaskin passed away on July first of this year, right before our annual Plenty Board meeting. He hadn’t been directly involved with Plenty over the past few years but, without his original inspiration and vision, Plenty would not have been born. I first met him in 1968 in a church basement in San Francisco where he was holding meetings with a couple of hundred hippies on Thursday nights. Over the course of the following year these meetings grew to about 1,500 and they filled a local rock and roll hall, the Family Dog, on Monday Nights. Stephen would sit on a low wooden platform, talking without a microphone and lead a conversation related to the things we were all thinking about in those days like spirit and energy, war and peace and what could we young hippies do in a country and a world that we believed desperately needed some kind of spiritual awakening. We viewed Monday Night Class as the Continental Congress for the Second American Revolution, a revolution that would be nonviolent and motivated by love, but a real revolution in the sense that we wanted to live very differently based on our discoveries of who we were and what it means to be human. Of course, the late sixties and early seventies were traumatic times with the ever-present specter of an insane war in Vietnam and the assassinations of icons like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. Then came the shooting of four students at Kent State by the National Guard on May 4, 1970.  That was on a Monday and that night, when we were gathered in the Family Dog as usual, the voices for arming ourselves and taking it to the streets were especially loud and insistent. It truly felt like the country was on the brink of a generational civil war and Stephen played a pivotal role as a voice for peace, pointing out that, in the first place, we couldn’t win a shooting war and, most importantly, our revolution would be rendered worse than meaningless, just another sorry chapter in the immensely stupid and self-destructive cycle of violence that seemed to have forever plagued our species.

On October 12 of that year, about 200 of us headed out across America with Stephen who had been invited on a speaking tour at universities and churches and community centers and town halls. We had moved into school buses fitted out with beds and kitchens and wood stoves. The first gig was in Minneapolis. We went to New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Nashville, Boulder, CO and dozens of cities and towns in between, finally ending up back in San Francisco with the understanding that it was time to put our money where our mouth was.

The first step was to make a community where we could live together. We decided to head to Tennessee, to get away from the political noise on both coasts and where we might be able to afford land. We got lucky and found a thousand acre farm for $70/acre. In the beginning we were just learning how to farm and feed ourselves and deliver babies and deal with no running water and no electricity. We were very poor but we still felt like we had more than enough to be able to share. Because we had always been committed to effecting change in the world, the next natural step was to start Plenty. Through these early years of the Farm and Plenty, when we were pretty green and wet behind the ears and learning how to get along with each other (by 1974 when we founded Plenty there were about 600 of us) Stephen was an essential guide and I don’t think we could have made it without him. The rest is history and we actually have a book in the works (“The Roots of Plenty”) that will be out before year-end. On top of that, the Farm and Plenty are on display in the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville as part of an Intentional Communities of Tennessee exhibit until the end of November. Imagine that.

I’d like to sign off with love and a big thank you to Stephen for his courage, vision and perseverance. I want to make a special plea for our friends and colleagues, Bisi and Mahmoud Iderabdullah who manage Imani House International, which has a clinic that’s on the front lines of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. Two of their staff have died from the disease. They need all the help we can give them. The new Bulletin is full of stories of people who inspire. They’re all on the front lines of the global campaign to make things better, to find and create solutions and to take care of others. They deserve our help.

With thanks to you from all of us at Plenty,

Peter Schweitzer

To view the Fall/Winter 2014 Plenty Bulletin simply click this link:
Plenty Bulletin Fall/Winter 2014

Pine Ridge Reservation Winter Emergency

Pine Ridge Statistics
• Unemployment rate of 80-90%
• Per capita income of $4,000
• 8 Times the United States rate of diabetes
• 5 Times the United States rate of cervical cancer
• Twice the rate of heart disease
• 8 Times the United States rate of Tuberculosis
• Alcoholism rate estimated as high as 80%
• 1 in 4 infants born with fetal alcohol syndrome or effects
• Suicide rate more than twice the national rate
• Teen suicide rate 4 times the national rate
• Infant mortality is three times the national rate
• Life expectancy on Pine Ridge is the lowest in the United States and the 2nd lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Only Haiti has a lower rate.

Plenty would like to support a project to winterize the homes of some of the elderly and disabled residents of Pine Ridge. We estimate that a budget of $1,800 would pay to add insulation and plastic around windows and doors and related small repairs for 20-25 houses. Houses on the reservation tend to be overcrowded and decrepit. Winters are especially harsh. A budget for 20-25 homes would include $500 for materials and supplies along with $300 for gas to get to the homes and $1,000 as stipends for the men doing the work. $1,800 total.

Books To Kids on the Gulf Coast

On October 4, 2014 Plenty’s Books To Kids project distributed hundreds of children’s books in Native Communities along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. Since 2007, Books To Kids has given away more than 150,000 children’s books in communities recovering from disasters and poverty from the Gulf Coast to Appalachia to metropolitan New York.

At the Pointe au Chien Community Center where Plenty is helping to install a library and computer lab.
At the Pointe au Chien Community Center where Plenty is helping to install a library and computer lab.
Chucky Verdin is the Chief of the Pointe au Chien band of Biloxi-Chitimacha Choctaw tribe and Theresa Dardar (red shirt) is a member of the Council.
Chucky Verdin is the Chief of the Pointe au Chien band of Biloxi-Chitimacha Choctaw tribe and Theresa Dardar (red shirt) is a member of the Council.
On Isle de Jean Charles kids select books.
On Isle de Jean Charles kids select books.

Super Typhoon Haiyan Relief Efforts

Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines with massive force. Relief efforts are needed on a massive, long-term scale. Plenty is being asked to help the village of Alta Vista on the island of Leyte, which is home to about 1,500 people. Every house in the area lost their roof and/or sustained other damage. Alta Vista Elementary School, with 280 students and the preschool/daycare with 45 students, lost its roof, desks, books and supplies. Other schools in the area are in similar shape and need help.


We will aid as many schools as we can, depending upon the amount of donations we receive.

This is an opportunity to help in a very specific and personal way to help this community get back on their feet!